English Country Cottaging

Posted: October 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

Stephen Fry did an interview with ‘gay’ pop culture magazine Attitude recently (Isn’t Attitude a brilliant title for a gay magazine?). I thought it might ruffle the feathers and rattle the tea cups of middle England a little. But I didn’t think quite why.

His comments about sexuality were re-enacted in that wonderful post-modern way that the contemporary media is so good at, like Viking and medieval re-enactments, but without the costumes or the sense of fun, first in the Observer and The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/31/stephen-fry-sex-women-relationships-attitude and then in the theatre of the English gentry that is Twitter.

And for all the huffing and puffing and crying ‘misogyny’ at Fry for allegedly uttering the idea that women might be less driven to fuck on a regular basis than gay men seem to be, I couldn’t help notice something.

The thing that everyone wanted to mention in referring to this faux pas by the Liberal classes’ Mr Nice, was ‘cottaging’.  Fry mentioned that amongst the environments in which gay men have sex are public spaces including parks and toilets*.   The twitterati choked on its Chardonnay and dropped its Sunday brunch soufflees. Because really in polite company it is de rigeur to have gay friends, and promote gay marriage, and be into gay ‘culture’. But if anyone, especially a gay man, should talk about the actual physical, social, sometimes not exactly pretty acts of men having sex with other men, with no reference to women, or The Guardian, or Love or The Pet Shop Boys, the word that starts to secretly, dirtily form on people’s lips is… perverts.

Being a proud pervert myself this pricks up my ears and pisses me off. Here are some examples of the twitterati reacting to Fry’s alleged comments. I think that again, what they are saying is men, especially gay men, are dirty dogs.

‘As a woman, I tend not to cottage because I’ve got this crazy fear that I might get attacked/robbed/raped’


‘By the way, I still love @stephenfry Plenty of good people have shitty unexamined misogyny to be called on. Let’s do it respectfully’.


‘Ohh,  THAT’S why women don’t screw strange men in bushes. Thanks, Steve! I was worried it might just be dignity, safety, or lack of need!’


‘AND this RT @AitchStewart some of his best friends were sebastian horsley, remember. #burythenationaltreasure


‘But look at lesbian sexuality. It’s more about pairing up and settling down than fucking anonymously in a toilet…’


‘Also, I feel bad for some of my gay male friends who never settle down and know the deep love of a long term relationship…


‘I know a fair amount of straight men who’d rather have sex in a bed than a park. But maybe that’s just coincidence…’


Perhaps the most telling statement came, predictably from a woman writing in the Guardian. If we are going to accept gays she seems to be saying, they need to accept that some of us have a bit more class than them, and like to have sex between ‘smart sheets’.

‘If we can allow for different sexual orientations, we should also allow for the fact that while some get off on al fresco risk, security and smart sheets do it for others’


* ‘Cottaging’ actually specifically refers to having sex in public toilets. The Guardian and the feminists confused this with ‘cruising’ which traditionally meant having sex in public spaces such as parks and wastelands.

This is a novel about cottaging. It looks good:


P.s. The only reason I haven’t done it in a public toilet is that I never find any men I fancy in the Ladies’. One day this may change and then our work will be done…


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Twundit and Erica Marfell, Elly . Elly said: https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/english-country-cottaging/ New Post 'English Country Cottaging' – spot your own tweets! […]

  2. Kim says:

    Oh thank fuck! I thought I was the only one who’d been pissed off by the uproar over Mr Fry’s comments and the rather moronic backlash in the Guardian. Ms Anderson seems to make no discernable point in her article at all bar the rather derogatory comment that you mention and a shameless (and rather lame plug) for her book.

    Personally I find it amusing that so many people are crying “misogynist” over this and trying to use rape stats to prove their point. I mean, honestly, what is so horrendous about someone commenting that men & women have different sexual appetites? Things like this make me very glad that I class myself as an a-typical feminist to avoid being lumped in with the idiocy.

  3. I find the trundling on of ‘rape stats’ particularly unnerving in this context, Kim.

    It’s almost as if women feel ‘left out’ of environments/acts where actually they would not get raped or assaulted. They’d just get ignored…

  4. Mark says:

    Fry brings me out in hives but – lordy! – I may have to defend him as he’s being attacked by the Islington set for being, as you say, just a filthy pervert in the end, despite all that promising talk of celibacy, the dulcet tones and and the aura of plump, donnish sadness. The eunuch turned out to be a satyr.

    That said, he’s being attacked even more for being a filthy pervert who has a CRITICAL opinion about heterosexuality.

    ‘How very dare you! Shut up you old homo! Don’t you realise that you’re a BIG GAY JOKE!’ is basically what these nice people are saying.

    I don’t entirely agree with his quoted opinion, as it happens, which seems somewhat dated, and of course rather generalised, but the savagery of the response and the almost pathological need to distort what he actually said makes me wonder whether he might be onto something. Things might not have changed as much as I’d thought.

    The general concentration on the obvious ‘absurdity’ of Fry having an opinion on straight women and straight men because he’s, y’know, an arse bandit is probably the most telling aspect of the response.

    It should go without saying that being an arse bandit does sometimes give you a vantage point from which to view heterosexuality more objectively not less. Or at least say things the others aren’t allowed to. But perhaps that’s just another reason why the response to what Fry said has been so deafening.

  5. I’d like to read the original Attitude article. You should still get a free subscription after all your years at the coalface.

    I saw it first reported in Pink News and didn’t think anything of it, I really didn’t think it would get picked up on in the broadsheets.

    There was a nice bit mentioned in the Pink article about how the thing he liked about cottaging (he actually said I think he found the sex side rather daunting) was the graffiti and the sense of solidarity. A bit like what I have read you saying as well.

    Those women do protest too much I agree, especially as a lot of the loudest voices were coming from marrieds, and women with kids. Not that I am cottaging my arse off but they will have a sense of ‘missing out’ on something…

  6. Tom says:

    “There was a nice bit mentioned in the Pink article about how the thing he liked about cottaging (he actually said I think he found the sex side rather daunting) was the graffiti and the sense of solidarity”

    What, like being in the Army or a rugger team?

  7. I don’t know what the graffiti is like in the army. But I have heard the sex is good.

  8. the comments that got to me the most were the ones about Seb Horsley. suggesting Fry was some kind of degenerate via association with a recently deceased man is kind of sick in my opinion. A man who never had any interest in putting down women, who loved women. Loved them more than feminists do. Idiots.

  9. […] about people’s attitude to cruising and cottaging and QuietRiotGirl wrote an excellent blog post on the subject which includes many illuminating Tweets from apparently liberal folk who seem to […]

  10. DA says:

    The whole Attitude interview is available to read here….
    this is the “offensive” stuff….

    “They [Love&Sex] do consume you. I think most straight men feel they disgust women. They find it difficult to believe that women are as interested in sex as they are.” – Stephen Fry, Attitude.

    From my reading of it, this was probably intended less as a detailed examination of female sexuality and more as one of those “isn’t sex a great cosmic joke?” things. If anything it seemed misanthropic, or misandric (my Greek is not good – those maybe the same thing :-\) rather than misogynist. It reminds me of a Billy Connolly joke on the same subject: “I’m sure, somewhere in the universe, someone is laughing at us. Men, need to have sex to feel loved, and women, women need to feel loved to have sex…” – which isn’t true for everyone, at all times, but is close enough for humour.

    As a Straight Man (yes! finally, our turn with the identity politics card!) I will admit that there is sometimes a fear or an edge, a fear or feeling that women would find some of male sexuality disgusting if we were entirely honest with them about it. Nothing in the reaction to Fry’s comments has persuaded me that this is not the case.
    For myself, and from what you see in the world, men probably are more willing and able to separate sex from affection, love, intimacy (and even sense of humour) and simply chase orgasms just for the sake of it. I don’t ever feel the need to go cottaging or visit prostitutes, but I think I know the feeling that prompts some men to do those things.

  11. Thanks DA thats great to read it from the horses mouth!

    I think women do find men’s sexuality disgusting at times. I have developed a bit of a reputation for being very accepting of mens sexuality *and women’s. and anyone who does not identify as either.

    and I find men talk to me in a way I am sure they wouldnt to women in their lives. which is nice. But can be a bit of a pressure. I don’t always know what they want me to say back!

  12. redpesto says:

    Gah – another example of why I think Gayle Rubin’s ‘Thinking Sex’ is a better guide to the politics of sexual behaviour/practices than most other kinds of feminist writing on how people fuck. See this example from the Guardian’s Laura Barton: ‘The way that we express our sexuality is, by its nature, female’. Fry’s mistake wasn’t to point out the idea of ‘female’ sex; it was to arrive at the ‘wrong’ kind of ‘female’ sex – whatever ‘female’ sex actually is. To claim simultaneously ‘patriarchal’ control of public space endangers women, yet the fact that women don’t cottage or cruise is a source of virtue (rather than the result of the same ‘patriarchal’ control of public space), is absurd.

  13. yeah I read that Barton piece and I thought it was absurd too. also boring.

    She was late to the party and didn’t say anything new… FAIL!

  14. english thorn says:

    I understand where Fry is coming from in saying that men might feel their sexuality disgusts women – in a lot of circles (and very disparate ones too) there does seem an undercurrent that men’s sexuality is coarse or comedic, possibly connected with how male genitalia is rarely seen as erotic in straight culture, but often as funny or just ugly and crude. And I agree that many comments that were made were very heterosexist.

    That said, I don’t understand your problem with Laurie Penny’s tweet.

    • headbang8 says:

      I’m with you and DA on that one.

      The line from disgust with gay men’s sex to disgust with all men’s sex is easy to cross. Are homophobia and misandry two sides of the same coin? Can a straight man’s homophobia be considered a form of internalised misandry?

      • its a good question headbang8 I don’t know. ‘misandry’ and ‘misogyny’ are such broad terms I try not to use them too often. I think yes homophobia can be (from both gay and non-gay men) a form of self-hatred or not being ok with one’s masculinity,sex drives, feelings for other men. But it’s pretty complicated.

  15. mY problem is more a problem with Laurie Penny full stop. as a journalist.

    You have access to her words and can interpret them differently from me.

    I find her constant references to misogyny quite offensive and nasty to men. And women.

  16. Tom says:

    “I don’t know what the graffiti is like in the army.”

    Widespread. Chalking messages to Hitler on bombs, nose-art on bombers, painting symbols on your chopper for the number of kills you’ve chalked up. If football is buggery in the rain, war is buggery with high explosives.

    The point was more that there’s something in common between, say, a round of golf with the boys and a bit of cottaging, other than the use of balls, sticks and holes, and it involves a reflex belief that women don’t belong there, and aren’t really built to enjoy it.

  17. Ah I see what you mean Tom. You are of course spot on there.

    I do wonder what goes on in thouse clubhouses sometimes!

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